To someone else, it might have just been part of an old stone wall, but to me, it was an altar in the woods.
A rock so square it looked like someone cut it in a cube, rested on top of a large boulder surrounded by more rocks holding them all in place. Around them, the old wall fell away in a tumble.
The boulder created what looked like an entrance to a small animal’s home. It was how purposeful the whole assembly of rocks looked that caught my attention. The combination of natural and manmade.
I squatted, leaning my back against the pile of rocks, looking out at what they saw. I could feel the moisture from my boots seeping through my leggings. A light snow tickled my face. I hugged my knees and closed my eyes.
I welcomed the chills that ran through me.
It was refreshing to be outside and cold after being inside most of the day. It awakened my body and focused my mind. I listened and heard the cars a mile or so away on Route 22. The road always seems louder in the winter, maybe because the trees are bare. For some reason, I always think it’s because of the cold air, but I have no idea if that’s true or not.
The stream, rushing with all the recent snow and rain was louder and more constant than the road noise. A single bird peeped high up, the sound slowly growing more distant till it disappeared. And could I really hear the snow falling, or was I imagining that?
After a while, I opened my eyes and although I hadn’t given her a second thought, I wasn’t surprised to find Fate as close as she could get, without touching me, waiting patiently.
I stood up knowing that if I couldn’t go home, put on dry clothes and sit in front of the woodstove with a hot cup of tea, I wouldn’t be enjoying the cold so much.
Fate ran ahead, she would slip under the gate and be waiting for me again, this time in the pasture as she anxiously watched the sheep, hoping for me to tell her to “get the sheep.”
Living so close to the woods and being able to walk in them whenever I choose no longer feels like a luxury to me. It seems a necessity.
The woods filled with altars, some more temporary, like the leaf I saw today, sticking straight up out of the snow supported by a forked twig, to the old stone wall, shifting slightly every year since it was built over at least 150 years ago.
Of course, I could survive without walking in the woods, but I think I would be less whole if I had to.